Town and Country Mall Embodies the Lingering Spirit of Old Phoenix

I live in fear of a few things: That Frank Rich will retire. That the writers of Lost will add yet another character to the show. That someone will notice that Town and Country Shopping Center looks about the same as it always has, and set about screwing it up by changing it.

Which isn't to say that Town and Country, at the southeast corner of 20th Street and Camelback, is the same mall it used to be. It's not. Most of the exclusive boutiques and businesses that this outpost of cool offered Phoenicians (and that even those of us who lived way over on the west side were willing to drive across town to enjoy) no longer exist. Homegrown shops like Jutenhoops, where one went for craft supplies, specialty greeting cards, and oddball gifts, are long gone. The first-run movie house that always included an independent or arty film on its roster couldn't compete with nearby multiplexes. And most of the legendary local restaurants that got their start there — like Rancho Pinot and Pizzeria Bianco — have moved out.

The more things change: T and C today.
Jay Bennett
The more things change: T and C today.

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But I admire the folks who run Town and Country, built in the mid-'60s, for not trying to "keep up." There have been changes made to the place, to be sure. Every couple of years, there'll be a frenzy of painting and a rearrangement of the interior walkways or something. A few years ago, some of the fountains were refurbished. And many of the shops that used to face the mall's shaded courtyards have been repositioned to face the parking lot for maximum exposure. Yet Town and Country, surrounded as it is by other older malls that have morphed into monstrosities, hasn't undergone that same sort of aesthetic overhaul. Therefore, it still looks pretty much like itself, rather than, say, another Westcor clone.

Rather than obliterating its curiously rambling, single-story, hut-like façade (as has nearby Biltmore Fashion Park) or enclosing its shaded walkways and fountain courts (as has Scottsdale Fashion Square), Town and Country has put some real effort into maintaining its Old Phoenix charm. And while the center is, these days, dominated by a huge fitness club and a heck of a lot more chain stores than local businesses, there's been a real attempt on the part of the mall's management to keep a distinctive blend of the ordinary (Blimpies, Supercuts) and the type of ma-and-pa shops that used to be a mainstay in local malls (The Cigar Inn, Jewels by G. Darrell Olson). I can't think of a single other reputable mall that's home to an upscale thrift store (Town and Country has two: My Sister's Attic and My Sister's Closet). Even this mall's chain stores are sort of unique: Instead of Borders or Barnes and Noble, Town and Country's bookseller is Bookstar. (Speaking of long-gone stores at this mall, what exactly was the Alpine Ski Keller? I never went in. Nor have I ever been in Jewels by G. Darrell Olson, which is Town and Country's oldest tenant.) And if Baby Kay's remains Town and Country's sole destination restaurant, many of the chain eateries, like Black Angus, have been there so long they seem almost retro.

Three years ago, the mall was sold to Phoenix Roadrunners franchise president Claude Lemieux, and there were rumors of a major redevelopment of the mall by Lemieux's partners, Red Mountain Retail Group. Red Mountain is known for redeveloping retail centers, although in this case its purchase involved only Town and Country's buildings, and not the land, which is owned by the Mars (as in candy bars) family and leased to the mall's current owners. I'm hoping the Marses won't do what they did with the neighboring Colonnade mall, on which they held the land lease until the mid-'90s, when they ended the lease in return for becoming part owner of the mall. The Colonnade has since become a sort of local joke after a disastrous remodel.

There's so much of Town and Country's original aura left that, every time I stop by Trader Joe's for a bag of lentils, I can still remember how "other" this mall felt to me when I visited it as a kid — like being dropped onto the streets of another city for an hour or two. The year I was in the third grade, my mother studied piano there at the Roger Williams School of Music (her instructor, Nancy Nemeth, smoked Tareytons and never wore a bra), and I'd go with Mom and wander around the mall while she learned to arpeggio. After the colossal confines of Chris-Town and Metrocenter, the west-side malls I'd grown up with, Town and Country felt exotic and "other." I'm grateful it still does.

 
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blitheboypics
blitheboypics

If you loved Jutenhoops, come check out Whozitz and Whatzitz Unique Gifts and Cards.  NW corner of 32nd STREET and Indian School!


cm_poulson
cm_poulson

To All, 


   The Town and Country shopping center is undergoing changes. Unfortunately, in their drive to redevelop the complex, the Shops at Town and Country under James Shough and reddevelopment.com have used unethical and brutal tactics to remove and destroy former small businesses. The Shops at Town and Country spitefully blindsided several small businesses including Baby Kay's Restaurant, Sunchain, and my business, Made On Planet Earth, by simply not disclosing future intentions, then giving impossibly short times to remove their businesses, and now the management of Town and Country and the greedy James Shough are withholding deposits due to these businesses. 
     Let's start with the treatment administered to Baby Kay's Restaurant by the Town and Country management. Baby Kay's was a Phoenix icon. The cajun restaurant had been located in the Town and Country complex for over seventeen years. Then in late summer 2013 the owners received an eviction notice giving them less then two months to vacate the property.      The owners and staff at Baby Kay's were shocked. With only two months notice, Baby Kay's owners had virtually no chance to quickly move their restaurant. It takes months to get permits for a new restaurant and then months again to prepare and rebuild. The owners are currently trying to re-open but are still months away from again being in business.       James Shough and the Shops at Town and Country are completely responsible for the shuttering of this Phoenix icon. Baby Kay's had eighteen employees, many of them single mothers who had worked there for over a decade.  After having their stable lives suddenly disrupted, most of the former workers have found new jobs but several are going through the holidays without employment. Unlike the Town and Country landlord James Shough, none of those single moms are multi millionaires.  
     Now let's get to the reason why I, Clay Poulson, owner of Made On Planet Earth, felt it necessary to write this letter. My business relationship with reddevelopement.com and the Shops at Town and Country should have ended weeks ago. But James Shough, when you kill a small business, you need to make a clean break.      On October 3, 2013 I received a notice of eviction demanding that my retail business be out of it's unit by October 31st. With only 28 days I was forced to move my store right when the good retail selling season begins. Everyone in the United States knows when a retail business makes it's money. Holiday season and cool Arizona weather starts on November 1st. My business had just had it's entire years profit and it's future ruthlessly taken away  by the coniving James Shough, reddevelopement.com, and the Shops at Town and Country.      My business and I were entirely blindsided. How do you move a business in 28 days? Zero time to plan. I hadn't been considering moving and it takes weeks or months to set up a deal in another complex. Plus I had over 10,000 items on my retail floor to pack. My business was screwed.      To add insult, I had already paid my rent before I received my eviction notice, so I had to pay James Shough, Town and Country, and reddevelopement while I was packing, disassembling my store, and moving.      Yet on October 31st I dutifully entered the offices of Town and Country and presented my keys. My usual contact, Sharon Hurd, was at her desk and we agreed to do the walk-through on my unit immediately. Ms. Hurd commented on how clean the unit was. As we parted, I enquired about my security deposit pointing out that my small business needed it's cash if it was to try to quickly re-open soon as not to miss the retail holiday season.      Then with a cocked head and mischevious smile, Ms Hurd said, "Sure, I'll handle it." Oddly, only a few weeks before I had been discussing the same issue with Ms. Hurd and she said that , "We like to repay our deposits promptly as they didn't like for those old business owners to linger."           Unfortunately, after an unreasonable amount of time, several phone calls, and an ugly visit to the office, the Shops at Town and Country still refuse to return my small businesses deposit money. Utterly ridiculous!! My business is forced to pack and move in 28 days and your corporation can't write a check in over two full months!!       James Shough, Town and Country, and reddevelopement have heartlessly destroyed several small businesses in their complex. These businesses had loyally paid rent for years and then, showing zero concern for the well being or future of these businesses or the people that work there, those greedy sleazeballs shuttered those small businesses. Then, on top of it, Town and Country management spitefully withholds cash deposits to make it more difficult for these businesses to re-open. James Shough, Town and Country, and reddevelopement SHAME ON YOU!! 
     And to Michael Ebert, Scott Rehorn, Steve Mann, and Jeff McMahon of reddevelopement.  I am sorry to have to drag your names into this, but it is your name, reddevelopement.com, on the Town and Country complex and your corporations money driving the changes that just destroyed these small businesses. These small businesses paid for your wealth for years. When Town and Country no longer wanted them, you multi millionaires pushed them aside and destroyed those businesses future and put a bunch of single moms out of work.      Then James Shough and Sharon Hurd decided to leave a small businessman lingering. 
     Clay Poulson, Owner, Made On Planet Earth.          602-955-1850 Show message history

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Layna  Taylor
Layna Taylor

Just found this article. I've lived in Phoenix almost all my life, and remember Town and Country with fondness as well. The Food Bazaar was such a treat to go to for dinner... not at all like the mall food courts of today. I got my parakeet at the pet store there, later went to the movies and Jutenhoops all the time. I hope it stays as it is. The perimeter has changed enough.

What I miss the most is the original Phoenix bird statue out on Camelback, on the tall, craggy platform with the flames around the bird. I used to ask to just go see the bird. I read that "David and the Phoenix" book back then, too, and was just fascinated with all things Phoenix bird.

Mark Compton
Mark Compton

I grew up in the neighborhood of T&C, moved out of state 35 yrs. ago and have just recently returned to the Phoenix Metro Area. I remember Town & Country with great fondness. What the writer did not mention was Tang's Imports, a head shop (which sold incense and where I saw my first issue of Rolling Stone magazine), the T&C Food Bazaar (a precursor to the now dull mall food court)Buster Brown shoes where my mother ALWAYS took the kids.

 
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